The obvious choice to me would be to take a course at the local
community college. The problem with this is that it's an hour and a half
one way. I also travel a bit.
I'm looking for recommendations, particularly on books. I'd also like
advice on what is the minimum practical toolset for learning. I'm well
aware that the wrong tools can impede learning, just as the best can not
make up for absent skill.
I did some stick welding a loooooong time ago, high school stuff. Never
got really good at it, just good enough to keep the instructor happy.
I've gotten a mess of opinions from "learn stick first" or "learn
oxy-acetylene first" to knowing either first makes TIG harder to learn.
My goal here is to learn to weld aluminum antenna structures. I'd be
dealing with fairly heavy material and odd inside corners of rods joined
to tubing, both round and square.
Ever try to learn to roller skate by reading a book?
$.02 from a welder ..............
On a scale of one to ten, what you want to do is a seven or eight. You are
at .25 on the scale. There is no way you will learn it from books. And
even if you read books and got some tips, you would still need to actually
be able to do it. I would estimate that you will need about 120 hours of
practice alone to be proficient. And that is "IF" you have the talent.
If you want the BASIC equipment, that will be about $2,000. That allows for
$1500 for machine, and $500 for personal equipment and enough consumables to
get you started. Better machines that will really do what you want in
heavier materials and with pulsers and sequencers run up to $4,000.
The advice you received about learning to oxyacetylene weld first is 100%
correct. OA welding is a two handed process, using heat in one hand and a
filler rod in the other. Exactly (almost, well, kinda sorta) like TIG. If
you can learn that from someone who has the equipment, it would help you
shorten your learning curve on TIG. You can buy a used gas rig for a couple
of hundred bucks. Aircraft builders use OA to weld aluminum tubing for
aircraft, so don't discount OA.
The TIG work you want to do is at the top of the line welding-wise. Don't
shortcut yourself. Take whatever steps you want to. Apparently you don't
want it enough to put in the hours or miles. And what does, "just good
enough to keep the instructor happy," mean? Sounds like you took the easy
way there, too, and shorted YOURSELF.
Either put in the time and money to do it right, or sub it out. If you are
making antennas out of "fairly heavy materials", you better darn well know
that they will stay together and not kill yourself or someone else. If you
want to do this, do it the absolute best you can, become an artist, and have
a reputation of skill, credibility, ability, and accuracy. It will pay off
in the end. There are lots of welders out there who do it "just good enough
to keep (fill in the blank) happy."
Maybe you don't have the talent or skill required. Maybe you don't want it
bad enough to do what it takes. Maybe you don't want to lay out $ X,000 on
a risky venture and then find out you CAN'T do it. Maybe it would be easier
and cheaper to sub it out, and concentrate on the sales and marketing. The
faster you can answer those questions, the quicker you will arrive at your
Your best bet is to find a local freelance TIG welder who is willing to
Check around the local shops and try to find somebody that many other
people respect for their welding and knowledge.
He, or she, can then help you with equipment that is scaled to your
work, and give you some hands on training.
TIG skill is very personal.
Anybody can learn it, but how long it takes you and how good you will
get are completely dependant on your ability and drive.
Buy me a plan ticket and I will fly down from Seattle and walk you
You can do a google search for my posts over at
I post a lot about TIG.
I am always willing to spread the gospel of TIG.
I teach Tuesday and Thursday evenings at South Seattle Community
Other than that my schedule floats with the breeze.
Let me know next time you are coming through rain central, and I will
give you some readers digest lessons.
I have been TIG welding for 20 years, as of this month, and teaching
welding fabrication for 6 years at SSCC
OA is the best intro work you can do for TIG, not so much because it is
so much like it, but because OA is like heavy weight lifting compared
It builds your muscle control and eye hand coordination so when you try
TIG you don't look like a complete buffoon.
Also OA is much cheaper to set up.
All my beginning students start in Oxy-Acet, no matter what welding
process they eventually wish to master.
It is an excellent touchstone for skill because it takes so much
patience and control.
You can start with TIG of course, but you might as well buy a case of
tungstens and cups to destroy as you learn.
I understand that.
Most of the people I teach are hobbiests, crafts-people, and artists.
I get a lot of people in my class who are really sick of doing
something else and want to start making things.
I can think of no more noble method of spending time than making things.
The scale of the work you wish to do may require some sizeable
To give you an idea...
A small AC/DC TIG outfit that would just barely be able to do the size
of the work you want to do will cost about $2000 once you add in all
the other stuff you will need.
An medium size rig that will allow you to easily produce your antennas,
would be closer to $3000.
For a production setup more like $4000 - $5000.
Yes you can buy older machines, but they will require very large power
hookups, and can often be a nightmare of hidden problems.
Here are my 3 top picks for TIG welding machines.
Do some google searching for dealers.
The Thermal Arc 185TSW is running about $1700 right now for a complete
The Miller Syncrowave 250DX is about $3000 ready to go.
The Miller Dynasty 300 DX runs about $4000.
BTW I have done quite a bit of repair welding on steel and aluminum
trussing and antenna towers including a complete rebuild of a 110 ft
short wave tower on Mercer Island.
For learning to TIG weld, I would get a Lincoln SquareWave 175 or a
Miller Econotig. Both are available in the $900-1,100 range and are,
in my opinion, acceptable to learn how to TIG weld.
You don't mention how thick the aluminum you're intending to weld is,
just that it is 'heavy'. The Lincoln and Miller above *can* weld 1/4"
aluminum but aren't really suited for more than 1/8" thick.
When I learned how to TIG weld, I got several books, the best of which
was "The Welder's Handbook" by Richard Finch. And I spent about 100
hours just running beads. Then I spent about 150 hours making
sculptures. By that time I was able to make things that had good
penetration and fairly good looking beads.
At that point I took a couple of my 'sculptures' and visited an expert
TIG welder for a day. He was able to raise my welding skill from
'acceptable' to very good in a few hours because I already had the
basic skills, I just didn't know exactly what to look for or how to
correct particular problems. If I had gone to him to start with, it
would have taken much longer as I would have had to learn the basic
skills before I could identify the nuances.
I do not know how to OA weld - I have an OA setup that I use for
cutting and brazing but have never done any welding with it.
I learned to weld at a votech school long ago. They only taught stick
and oxy/acet at the time. Much later I took a course at a community
college to learn how to Tig weld. In both cases the amount of
instruction was very small compared to the amount of time I spent
I expect Ernie does a better job, but my experience is that after you
get shown some safety items, the instructor wanders around and sees
how people are doing. And more or less lets you learn on your own,
except for stepping in if you are doing something wrong or havivg a
lot of difficulty. In my case when I learned to Tig weld, the
instructor was busy with a bunch of new students doing Stick and Gas
welding, and by the time he got to me, I already was Tig welding.
Sure I improved, but I really did not get taught much. Now I did
already know how to gas weld, and I think if you can do one, you can
do the other. Things as pulling back the torch vs easing off on the
pedal are not a lot of difference.
School is definately good, but just doing it will work.
I would figure out what you need for the work you are wanting to do,
and not buy a Tig welder that is too small to learn on. The big ones
will work better at the low end and the high end.